abstract: Gunn writes to introduce an Oneida chief.
handwriting: Formal handwriting is largely clear and legible.
paper: Single medium-sized sheet is in fair condition; it is thin and fragile with light-to-moderate staining, creasing and wear. The remnants of the wax seal appear to have preserved a fingerprint.
noteworthy: It is uncertain to whom Gunn refers when he mentions "Rev. Smith," although it is possibly Titus Smith.
Modernized Version -- deletions removed; additions added in; modern spelling and capitalization added; unfamiliar abbreviations expanded.
the Oneida Tribe living at Onaquaga arrived
at my house last Wednesday on his journey to Boston,
and Expected that I Should have Borne him Company,
But I Cant by reason of my indisposition of Body
I advised him to go By the way of Lebanon Thinking You Would not Take
it amiss, we were in hopes of finding Mr. Chamberlain
here to accompany him to your house But he is
Not at home, I Should Be Glad to Come Down
myself if I was Able, he is a man of Value
and I hope may find favour [guess: where] Ever he goes,
he desires that you will please to send an Indian Boy
with him to Boston if you have any of the Mohawk
Tribe that can Speak English
as to Other particulars See The Rev.
Mr. Smith's letter
Sir You Seemed to think in Your letter that I
had been Shy of Your house, if I am So, it is
without any just grounds for it, I never was
within twenty miles of Your house But twice
in my life the first time I Called to see You
and was kindly Treated the
Second Time I intended to have kept Sabbath
at Your house But stopped at Lebanon By a
Storm and past Your house a Sabbath Evening
with Some Company that would not Stop
and was loath to Brake Company E Gunn
September 2. 1767.
The Rev. Mr. Eleazar Wheelock
Elisha Gunn was a gunsmith who resided in Onaquaga for a number of years and served as an interpreter for several different missionary societies. Although he was a well-known interpreter in missionary circles, there is little information about him. He is identified as a resident of Montague, MA, where his three children were born, but he and his family seem to have spent much of the 1760s living in Onaquaga. It is unclear where Gunn learned Haunenosaunee (Iroquois) languages, but his services were certainly in high demand: he was the interpreter over whom the Connecticut Board of the SSPCK and the Boston Board of the New England Company clashed in 1765. One of Wheelock's main goals was to train missionaries who could serve as their own interpreters, because he believed that existing interpreters were too scarce, too expensive, and too untrained in theology. What little we know of Gunn certainly supports Wheelock's arguments. He seems to have been one of the few available interpreters (if not the only one), his services cost the New England Company £50 sterling a year (more than three times Occom's salary at the same time), and his surviving letters show a reliance on extremely phonetic spelling and suggest a lack of formal education. NB: One genealogical website puts Gunn's birth year at 1723, a decade earlier. It would be easy for a researcher to mix 1723 and 1733, especially if the record is poorly written, and neither year is unreasonable.
Titus Smith was a Yale graduate whom Wheelock trained and ordained as a missionary and sent to the Six Nations with the 1765 mission. Together with Theophilus Chamberlain, a Yale student with whom he was examined and ordained, Smith led the band of newly-examined schoolteachers and ushers into the Six Nations to set up day schools. After Ebenezer Moseley replaced him, Smith retired from the missionary life and became an itinerant preacher in Connecticut until 1768, when he converted to Sandemanianism and was re-ordained. Because of his religion (Sandemanians opposed violence), as well as his Tory politics, Smith found himself in danger when the Revolution broke out. His family fled to Long Island, and from there to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Smith lived out his remaining years.
Eleazar Wheelock was a New Light Congregationalist minister who founded Dartmouth College. He was born into a very typical Congregationalist family, and began studying at Yale in 1729, where he fell in with the emerging New Light clique. The evangelical network that he built in college propelled him to fame as an itinerant minister during the First Great Awakening and gave him many of the contacts that he later drew on to support his charity school for Native Americans. Wheelock’s time as an itinerant minister indirectly brought about his charity school. When the Colony of Connecticut retroactively punished itinerant preaching in 1743, Wheelock was among those who lost his salary. Thus, in 1743, he began operating a grammar school to support himself. He was joined that December by Samson Occom, a Mohegan Indian, who sought out an education in hopes of becoming a teacher among his people. Occom’s academic success inspired Wheelock to train Native Americans as missionaries. To that end, he opened Moor’s Indian Charity School in 1754 (where he continued to train Anglo-American students who paid their own way as well as students who functionally indentured themselves to Wheelock as missionaries in exchange for an education). Between 1754 and 1769, when he relocated to New Hampshire, Wheelock trained approximately 60 male and female Native American students from nearby Algonquian tribes and from the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) of central New York. At the same time, he navigated the complicated politics of missionary societies by setting up his own board of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, although he continued to feud with the Boston Board of the SSPCK and the London Commissioners in Boston (more colloquially called the New England Company). By the late 1760s, Wheelock had become disillusioned with the idea of Native American education. He was increasingly convinced that educating Native Americans was futile (several of his students had failed to conform to his confusing and contradictory standards), and, in late 1768, he lost his connection to the Haudenosaunee. With his inclination and ability to sponsor Native American missionaries largely depleted, Wheelock sought instead to fulfill his ultimate ambition of obtaining a charter and opening a college, which he did in 1769. To fund this new enterprise, Wheelock drew on the £12,000 that Samson Occom had raised for Moor’s Indian Charity School during a two-and-a-half year tour of Great Britain (1765 to 1768). Much of this money went towards clearing land and erecting buildings in New Hampshire for the Charity School’s relocation — infrastructure that also happened to benefit Dartmouth. Many of Wheelock’s contemporaries were outraged by what they saw as misuse of the money, as it was clear that Dartmouth College was not intended for Indians and that Moor’s had become a side project. Although Wheelock tried to maintain at least some commitment to Native American education by recruiting students from Canadian communities, the move did a great deal of damage to his public image. The last decade of Wheelock’s life was not easy. In addition to the problems of trying to set up a college far away from any Anglo-American urban center, Wheelock experienced the loss of relationships with two of his most famous and successful students, Samson Occom and Samuel Kirkland (an Anglo-American protégé). He also went into debt for Dartmouth College, especially after the fund raised in Britain was exhausted.
Theophilus Chamberlain was a Yale graduate and missionary employed by Wheelock. His interest in Indian ministry may have started during the French and Indian War, when he was taken captive by a tribe allied with the French (it is unclear which tribe) at Fort William Henry and spent a year in Nova Scotia. After his return to New England, Chamberlain attended Yale. Wheelock recruited Chamberlain, along with fellow Yale graduate Titus Smith, to spearhead Moor's 1765 mission to the Six Nations. Chamberlain was examined as a missionary on March 12, 1765, and ordained on April 24, 1765. During the mission, he was stationed at Canajoharie (the Mohawk "Upper Castle") and oversaw the mission to the Mohawks. While on his mission, he converted to Sandemanianism, a decision that profoundly shaped the rest of his life. It is difficult to evaluate his efficacy as a missionary: he had high praise for himself, and David Fowler said the Mohawks were affectionate towards him, but Occom described him as overzealous. Chamberlain served the duration of his contract, but clashed with Wheelock afterwards over who was responsible for debts he had incurred on his mission (e.g. transportation costs, support for schoolmasters and interpreters). After departing from Wheelock's service, Chamberlain was ordained as a Sandemanian bishop. He fled to New York and later Nova Scotia during the American Revolution because of his religious and political beliefs. In Nova Scotia, Chamberlain oversaw the establishment of the settlement of Preston.